The watchability of Marvel’s Agents of Shield has ridden the line between a typical NBC procedural show and the potential for what it COULD be…and its ridden that line hard. There have been occasional flashes of brilliance. For example – The events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier having a literal effect on the shows story thread. Agent Coulson’s rival & would be girlfriend getting shot in the head (Damn. That was savage). Or that one incredible – one take/one shot – fight scene with Chloe Bennet‘s Daisy Johnson that comes close to rivaling “The Hallway Scene” from the Daredevil series on Netflix. These occasional ups, however, don’t absolve from an issue that has weighted this show down since its beginning. That issue being, that it is very loosely tied to the rest of the Marvel Universe. In fact, aside from a few references, name drops, occasional guest appearance (they’ve had Fury, Lady Sif and some Hulk characters), and the fact that the show is called Agents of Shield (even though the heroes are more Secret Society now than Agents of Shield) this does not, nor has it ever, felt like a Marvel show. Certainly not one, that plays in the same sandbox as The Avengers and those Netflix spin-offs.
This is a sentiment and lamentation shared by one of the shows lead stars, who was surprisingly vocal about it.
Agents of SHIELD star Chloe Bennet, who plays Daisy Johnson (formerly Skye), recently appeared at Wizard World Des Moines (via io9), and she was asked by a fan why some of the Avengers, like Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Captain America, aren’t called in help better tie the TV universe with the film universe.
Bennet’s answer to this question was, well, a direct call out to her big bosses at Marvel:
I don’t know. People who make movies for Marvel, why don’t you acknowledge what happens on our show? Why don’t you guys go ask them that? Cause they don’t seem to care!
Just so no one mistook her tone/feelings, she followed up by saying:
The Marvel Cinematic Universe loves to pretend that everything is connected, but then they don’t acknowledge our show at all. So, I would love to do that, but they don’t seem to keen on that idea.
Bennet’s clearly loves her job and believes in the product. She’s very obviously frustrated that Marvel doesn’t feel the same.
She perfectly called them out on it. Marvel doesn’t want to water down its big league characters by putting them in this show. And they don’t want to water down their movies by putting in this shows 3rd string heroes. This is just a much a problem stemming from Marvel directly, as it does it does with ABC.
ABC’s method of practice has been, and will always be, to produce procedural shows and rudimentary serials because its the only thing they can do. While AOS has gotten away from self contained episodes (villain of the week type stuff), its no where near the prominent form of serial dramatic programming like Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, or Daredevil. Thematic shows like that are just damn near to impossible to develop on a publicly accessed channel like ABC what with the FCC watching and all those primetime investors. Where NBC and ABC allow for a greater reach in audience on a national scale, there are too many hindrances that allow AOS to do even basic things – like really good story telling and character building, of which to build themes and well thought out arches around. AOS has had its moments, for sure, but there’s no getting around the fact that you’re watching a ABC product vs a Marvel product.
Maybe Marvel knew that going in. Perhaps Agents of Shield was never intended to be anything other than barely functioning Marvel product solely as a means to get foot hold in in primetime TV to use it to promote its real bread and butter – its film universe.
AOS has its charm and heart but there’s been so much promise and opportunity for Marvel do some truly interesting things in sharing their Cinematic Universe on the big and small screen. They’ve yet to live up those possibilities; at least on prime time TV anyway. They could’ve made AOS into 22 hr version of Full Metal Jacket and either trickled in for forcefully included characters from in films to strengthen their connectivity. Instead they made an ABC show with a Marvel label on it.